Shipping Wheat, Wind Turbines and More

When I say I’m going to provide you some St. Lawrence Seaway shipping statistics, the reason is more than the alluring alliteration. Our friends in Northwest Indiana are well aware of the Great Lakes shipping connections to the St. Lawrence Seaway and the tremendous economic impact of those important waterways.

Wheat and wind turbines are leading the way. Check out the news courtesy of Marine Delivers:

The latest statistics from the St. Lawrence Seaway show that grain shipments are up more than 20 percent as the marine highway benefits from international demand for American and Canadian wheat.
 
Year-to-date grain shipments from March 22 to June 30 totaled 2.6 million metric tons, compared to 2.1 million metric tons during the same period last year. While Canadian grain shipments were up three percent for the period to 1.9 million metric tons, the surge was predominantly fueled by a 127 percent increase in U.S. shipments of 400,000 metric tons heading through the Seaway to overseas markets.
 
Rebecca McGill, director of trade development for the Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation, noted that the 2011 navigation season continues to reflect respectable gains in general cargo and agriculture products.

There is one market, however, that is booming – the transportation of wind turbine components. Year-to-date general cargo shipments, which includes wind turbines, has increased by 404 percent. McGill said: “Shippers carrying wind component cargoes continue to send vessels into Great Lakes ports. These oversized pieces move economically by water to ports where rail or, more commonly, trucks move them to site destinations."

Kharbanda: Manufacturing Opportunities Lie at Intersection of Economy and Environment

Jesse Kharbanda is the Executive Director of the Hoosier Environmental Council, Indiana’s leading environmental educator and advocate.

In this world of intense global competition, where does Indiana’s industrial future lie? Logistics, biosciences, and clean car technologies have been some of the areas that we’ve seen Indiana industry focus on. Indiana, in our view, has yet to tap into another sector – clean electricity component manufacturing, which produces the goods that make wind turbines briskly spin, solar panels soak in the sun, and air conditioning systems be energy hogs no longer. Indiana is surprisingly well positioned to lead in this sector: According to the Renewable Energy Policy Project, a DC-based think tank, Indiana has the second highest potential in the country to produce such goods.There’s no doubt some such companies, like Brevini Wind near Muncie, are locating to Indiana due to our business-friendly environment as it is.

But how might Indiana fully realize this potential, and actually become the second highest job generator of clean electricity jobs? Ask venture capitalists and commercial clean electricity developers, and they’ll tell you pointedly that Indiana needs a dedicated renewable energy policy: a Renewable Electricity Standard (RES), and a robust net metering program. Unfortunately, we’re the only state in the Midwest without the former, and we have the weakest net metering policy in our region. Policies like an RES and strong net metering have a triple dividend: they make Indiana a more hospitable climate for clean electricity manufacturing jobs, they move our electricity sector towards energy sources that are better for our health and environment, and they hedge against regulatory or economic-induced fossil fuel price shocks.

An organization like HEC and a trade group like the Indiana Chamber may not be in complete alignment on the right policy solution, but for the sake of jobs and improved environmental quality, let’s a find a way to work together to make sure that Indiana is a leader in this sector, a sector that will mushroom in the decades to come. HEC’s hand is extended.

Packing a Powerful Agenda for Energy Week

The topic last Friday was energy when the Indiana Chamber conducted its monthly Policy Issue Conference Call. We quickly discovered there was no shortage of topics. It would have been easy to expand the one hour of discussion with our own Vince Griffin, David Pippen of the governor’s office and Brandon Seitz of the Indiana Office of Energy Development.

We’ll recap just a few of my takeaways from that, with several of the subjects from that discussion undoubtedly returning during this Energy Week on the blog. We will feature a daily guest blog or other insight focused on Indiana energy developments. Consider the following:

  • Indiana is home to two of the biggest energy investments you will find anywhere: $4-billion plus being spent by BP in updating its Whiting Refinery to be able to better process heavy crude oil from Canada; and construction of Duke Energy’s $2.3 billion coal gasification plant in Edwardsport. For those who want coal to disappear, it’s not going to happen. This is the next generation of technology being implemented for the first time on a broad scale that will guide the use of abundant coal reserves.
  • There are 616 wind turbines (the number could seemingly change any day) towering in the Indiana skyline. More projects are being proposed and studied — and that’s a good thing. But supporters need to remain realistic as wind will not replace (but supplement) more traditional power sources. After all, if the wind is not blowing, it’s lights out — so to speak.
  • Indiana’s success in wind and ethanol production is due to incentives (both state and federal), not mandates. Other states have opted for the renewable standards that require a certain percentage of power to be generated by various alternative sources. For Hoosiers, the preferred method is innovation — discovering new sources for ethanol, rewarding entrepreneurs, emphasizing efficiency and utlizing technology to make better use of existing resources.

Again, there is so much more that was discussed last week and continues to be part of the energy mix. Bottom line: Indiana makes things, it always will make things and reliable, low-cost energy is needed to make that happen.

And, if you want to supplement information with education, check out the Chamber’s popular Indiana Conference on Energy and Environmental Management. It’s June 15 at the Hyatt Regency Indianapolis.